Last week I took a few pics, to help with directions, for those trying to find Casa di Simonetta. Adine is a hamlet in the centre of Chianti, consisting of a handful of properties, dating back to the 11th Century. At the time of the 2001 census the population was 13, I don’t think it’s changed! Adine is now in the very early days of spring and this magnificent almond tree (pictured) is in blossom at the entrance to the village.
The reason for my early March trip was to meet with our lovely building contractor, Matteo Sandrelli, on the final design points of our “piccola piscina”. Barry Gould, the architect (my one and only), is behind the “non intrusive and site-specific to this ancient property” design. Me, the messenger. The quick visit was also, to prepare the property for an American family hosting a wedding in Florence. The family walked the Green Mountain Trail in 2017 and have subsequently become regulars at Wildekrans Country House.
En route to Italy, I was reminded of my enormous love for the tunes of Joan Armatrading while watching an in flight feature, filmed at Asylum Chapel, London last year. I collected every album produced by Joan Armatrading in the late seventies. This love is shared with Keith Kirsten, who invited us to join him at a live concert in Johannesburg in 2016. It was my second Armatrading concert. Soon after my arrival at UC Berkeley in 1985, she played at the Greek Theatre alongside my res.
Last year, at the age of 70, Joan Armatrading released a new album, CONSEQUENCES. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis’ album of the week column said “Consequences essays pop head on, without for a second sounding like a heritage artist trying to glom on to current trends. Natural Rhythm, Already There, and Like, sparkle because they’ve got the kind of melodies that people pay teams of Nordic songwriters fortunes to painstakingly devise: moreover, they fit her voice, always more strident and powerful than you might expect given the sensitive singer-songwriter tag.
A critical elevation of her work would be welcome and just, but it’s worth pointing out that Armatrading herself seems perfectly content where she is. “Some people sit in their ivory tower with the Midas touch,” she sings on Better Life, “A kind word has more healing power / It’s precious.”
I experienced extreme kindness on my way home from Italy. While in transit I discovered that I had left my iPad on the Roma/Doha flight. Islam took it upon himself to have the iPad collected from the aeroplane by car. My flight to Cape Town was leaving and I felt compelled to give up. While rushing to my gate I heard a voice behind me calling calling “Ma’am, Ma’am”. Islam arrived, my iPad under his arm and completely out of breath. I asked him what I could do to thank him. He offered his employee number, 64801. I have written a letter of thanks. Islam is one of more than 50 000 Qatar employees.
On Friday I attended the celebration of a family friend’s life. He had died unexpectedly and many that knew him gathered at the invitation of his beautiful wife and two children. His children and three besties spoke. One line has especially stayed with me. It’s the line from Tuesdays with Morrie “Do what the Buddhists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?… Is today the day I die?… “
On Thursday evening Christy Loedolff pulled off yet another super evening at Liberty Books. She interviewed authors Cathy Park Kelly (Boiling a Frog Slowly) and Penny Haw (The Wilderness Between Us). Christy talked about Sylvia Plath’s KINDNESS. When looking for that poem over the weekend, I was reminded of this one by Naomi Shihab Nye (1952).
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
PS: I spent Sunday reading Penny Haw’s The Wilderness Between Us. Read it. It’s about many things including the power of the wilderness, which we celebrate every day on our trails. We have spaces on our 28 March (6), 11 April (4) and 18 April (2) trails. Book Here
PPS: Of course I need to remind you that Liberty Books was also designed by none other than Barry Gould, the architect.
PPPS: Had to check on the meaning of Midas Touch – the ability to make money out of anything one undertakes.